I am a Patient Advocate at a large regional hospital and fairly new to the position. Since my job requirement is to essentially make sure patients and families are receiving great care and customer service, I want to learn all that I can.
One area where I see opportunity for improvement is to help facilitate communication. Doctor communication is particularly important. I am trying to observe how doctors communicate with each other and how patients and families communicate with physicians.
I have also noticed that there is often poor communication between doctors and nurses. This can be especially challenging as nurses are the front line in patient care.
Do you have any pointers that can help me learn how to communicate with doctors?
How to Communicate with Doctors
Even though you are new to your position, it sounds like you’ve already figured out the vital role physician communication plays in patient care and satisfaction. Communicating with your doctor is so vital. If families are reluctant or too intimidated to share their concerns, important warning signs and symptoms can be overlooked.
Here are a few tips that will help you be a bridge between doctors, nurses, patients, and families:
Keep a symptom journal: Suggest to patients and families that they keep a symptom journal whether they are in the hospital or at home. Taking a few minutes each day to document their senior loved one’s symptoms and changes can be a big help to their primary care doctor. Jot down any changes in behavior, new symptoms, daily activities, their meals for the day (or lack of interest in eating), how much water they drank, quality of sleep from the night before, and anything they struggled with that day. Before the physician visits with the patient, encourage the family to take a few minutes to organize recurring symptoms and make the information easy for the doctor to quickly review.
Prepare questions: One concern families often cite as a barrier to communicating with their physician is how it seems like the doctor is always rushing. While it is true that they are very busy professionals, most want to know about concerns in time to intervene. It allows them to prevent small problems from becoming big ones. Help the family organize their questions into a concise, written list in order of priority. Then encourage them to keep written notes of their interactions with each physician. This is a practice the family caregiver can continue once they leave the hospital and are caring for their loved one on their own.
Keep a health file: Another important communication tool is creating a health file. This is especially true for older adults who see multiple physicians. Make sure to obtain copies of all health screenings, tests results, medications and dosages (including any over the counter medicines they take), allergies, and a list of all the health care professionals involved in their care. There are smart phone apps, like My Medical and CareZone, which you might find helpful. Some even allow users to have multiple logins in case several family members are involved in caregiving.
My final suggestion is to remind families how important it is to follow doctor’s orders. Physicians get frustrated when a patient shows up over and over in their office or the hospital for the same problem and the patient hasn’t been following the physician’s orders.
If a family is struggling to get a loved one to comply with their physician’s orders, the goal should be to try to figure out why. Once they get to the root of the problem, there may be a way to work around it.
I hope this is helpful to you, Carole. Please feel free to contact the Griswold Home Care office nearest you if you have more questions or would like to meet with one of our team members in person.